Carbon Accounting, a calculation method which gets everyone to agree

It was my intention in the introduction to this article to give it a polemical title since we are totally helpless in confronting one of the biggest issues of climate change

Carbon Accounting, a calculation method which gets everyone to agree

This is a strange period in which we observe at the same time a global increase in greenhouse gas emissions[1] and a significant increase in the global average temperature at each update of the new IPCC scenarios or of new scientific studies[2]. This comes at a time when there is no change in our way of life nor sufficient action to attempt a real turnaround. However, a measuring tool which could implement a tangible GHG regulation is available; it is called Carbon Accounting.

This accounting method, although relatively simple by definition and in its applications criteria, seems to be much more difficult to apply and to take into account in our investment at the global level because of the radical change in the economic paradigm which it implies. However, this method allows us to “measure” by calculation based on a statistical database or real measures the carbon footprint of an organization. This method provides a robust overview of the efforts made by organizations in their strategy of reducing carbon intensity.

Although we all know that cultural organizations represent a small and insignificant piece of GHG[3], it seems obvious to me that these organizations, as a result of their empowerment capacity and their role as a catalyst of consumption patterns[4], must be up to this major challenge[5]. This may be possible only if cultural market participants join forces to set up cultural policies that take into account the strategy of GHG reduction. A think tank of European jazz participants in the context of Jazz Connective could be an interesting development in establishing a GHG strategy for the jazz field. This method could be a powerful generator for a resilient force moving to a smart rhizomelic network. Since jazz and innovative music has always been an expression of freedom and openness for mankind, jazz and its innovative forms can bring a responsible voice beyond its aesthetic territory among all the actors in the music sector on a European scale, with the ambition that in the coming months, the entire musical and cultural sector can make progress in this direction.

My intention in this article is to introduce briefly the carbon accounting method in order to show that it is possible (internally and with a minimum of training) for any organization to take advantage of this tool to calculate its carbon footprint over a year.

Firstly, I should introduce the principal concepts:

What is CO2?

- CO2 is a gas. Scientists have found that it contains a global warming potential that contributes to the greenhouse effect. It has the property of remaining for a long period of time in the atmosphere and, if emitted in significant quantities, it produces a significant increase in the greenhouse effect[6].   This GHG effect is a natural phenomenon resulting from the re-emission of sunlight into the atmospheric layer.

- CO2 is a unit of measurement. Other gases in fairly large numbers also have global warming potential and some are worse than CO2. Nevertheless, in order to be able to assess the overall contribution of all greenhouse gases, scientists have measured relationships between CO2 and other GHG and define for each gas an index (called GWP) that refers to a unit of CO2 in order to facilitate the calculation. Each gas can therefore be measured in CO2 units (in CO2-eq) using this GWP index[7]. Carbon dioxide equivalents are commonly expressed as million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents, abbreviated as MMTCDE.

- CO2 is a trusted value and is now traded as a currency on a global market exchange. To limit carbon emissions, mechanisms resulting from the Kyoto Protocol have been put in place in the EU, and worldwide. Indeed, since 2005, the European Union Emission Trading Scheme, which is similar to a carbon exchange, is a market-based instrument that allows the purchase of emission rights to aim to reduce the industrial carbon footprint by setting up allowances.

A calculation, but from which data?

- To calculate carbon emissions two databases are available:

o Primary data: These data are derived from actual measurements of carbon emissions. They directly reflect the energy efficiency of an activity over a given period of time.

o Secondary data: When calculating the greenhouse gas emissions of an activity, some data are not directly accessible by measurements or calculations derived from a measurement: these data are called secondary data. They are therefore obtained by estimation by referring to a database. This offers an emission value of an object equivalent or close to the object we are trying to measure. Depending on the complexity of the object to be measured, the secondary data thus give us a more or less precise approximation of the emissions of the object to be measured.

What is the measuring range?

- Carbon accounting involves counting the elements of a company's activity that represent quantities of greenhouse gas emissions. In order to establish the scope of the calculation, this accounting method seeks to determine the scope of its analysis.

To do this, it is necessary to define two main perimeters:

The organizational perimeter: geographical delimitation of the organizational units of the study.

The operational scope: it specifies the products and services covered by the study. They are called "scopes"[8]:

Scope 1: The cadastral approach.

This calculation scope only includes direct emissions from energy products held by the reporting organization. In other words, this scope includes everything that comes from energy (electricity, heat or steam production, but also transport, chemical emitting processes, agricultural sector emissions or fugitive emissions) and is emitted directly by the organization, state or company regardless of its radius of influence. It is on the basis of this scope 1 that states compare their carbon emissions. This represents direct emissions generated only within their organizational scope.

This scope is a first level of measurement. It is perfect for reporting and cadastral assessment to external partners with a view to conducting a global count. However, it does not reflect the organization's actual carbon footprint because its radius of influence is not taken into account, and for example the energy carbon emission products reported for the activity do not appear.

Scope 2: The voluntary approach:

 The scope of analysis of scope 2 extends the study of the organization's emissions by adding to scope 1 all the organization's indirect energy emissions. In other words, all carbon emissions from an energy product reported on the organizational scope are taken into account. For example, electricity generated outside the organizational scope and consumed within it is included in scope 2. To integrate this approach into its carbon footprint, it is therefore necessary to access the carbon emissions data of the energy providers and producers with whom the organization works.

Scope 3: The voluntary approach second part:

Scope 3 then considerably broadens the operational scope, since it seeks to express all the carbon emissions of the organization's radius of influence. This scope is complex to assess given the large amount of data to be included in the balance sheet and the difficulty of access. For example, an organization that takes into account scope 3 should evaluate its entire purchasing chain (e. g. internal catering), its entire transport chain (home office, service providers, etc.), its consumables and waste... And it is often necessary to obtain data from product life cycle assessments (LCA)[9] focused on the carbon criterion in order to quantify the footprint. Even if there are databases that easily convert to Tec (Tons of carbon dioxide equivalent), quantifying the impact of a product or measuring the amount of waste produced over an accounting period is not always easy for all organizations, and this assessment requires upstream preparation and extensive management work.

What kind of emission reduction strategies within a cultural structure?

               If we take a cultural structure as an example, the GHG reduction strategy can be applied after the organization has completed its first GHG assessment. This will make it possible to identify the largest emission hubs and define action plans.

As a general rule (for the most organizations), the first pole to work on, considering scope 1 and 2, will be to reduce the energy consumption of its organizational perimeter: replacement of boiler - radiators by more efficient ones, insulation of offices, replacement of halogen lighting by LED lighting[10], automatic shutdown of premises, change of energy supplier by a "green" supplier...

Let's now consider scope 3. While it may sometimes seem difficult to assess the quantity of waste and the quantity of carbon emitted linked to purchasing policy, it may be interesting to work on the place of transport in the activity: transport of service providers, the public, artists, employees...

 If we take the example of a diffusion structure in charge of a venue, once the efforts made concerning the energy reduction of its building have been completed, it will be able to work on the transport part of its activity by implementing a proactive policy towards its employees, its public and its artists (example: soft mobility bonus for employees, double pricing of the public according to its mode of transport, prioritization of programming  artists who are  ecologically responsible during tours by considering the way they manage their trip or their choice of transportation...).

Finally, if we look at the carbon share of tours, it seems important that touring networks should be more structured to circulate works and groups in a coordinated way in order to be able to conduct touring policies that are consistent with the carbon cost. Programming policies must necessarily and systematically take this parameter into account in touring choices and add them to aesthetic, marketing and financial criteria. To carry out this policy, it seems finally obvious that a capital contribution in order to develop carbon training and create grouped support to carry out reduction strategies must emerge at the European level. The entire cultural sector will then be able to benefit from it if it shows that it has the ability to make effective changes.

What are the advantages of this strategy?

In addition to participating ethically in a more resilient and sustainable business, the main benefits of implementing a low-carbon strategy are:

  • Development of sustainable management and mobilization of an entire sector
  • Greater resilience of activity less sensitive to fossil energy flows
  • A new audience with ecological sensitivity in mind and as a new mode of consumption
  • A way to interact and organize a new relationship with the audience with the aim of generating discussion about sustainability.
  •  An open data strategy which shows the ethical views of the organization
  • A definite advantage in communication and marketing

The possibility of opening up to third-party funding from foundations or funds dedicated to sustainable development. Therefore, funding from national and European cultural policies will increasingly require results in terms of a sustainable development strategy and a reduction of carbon emissions.

What could be the disadvantages of this strategy?

The cultural sector is, as with the other sectors in the arts, subject to the laws of the market (even if public policies provide  strong and necessary support for the sector), any change could be sensitive. Since any sensible actors should think about the disadvantages before acting, the items below should be considered:

  • A time-effective and cost-effective approach with long term results.
  • A possible market short-term comparative disadvantage because of the increase of investments cost
  • By reducing transportation flows this strategy could have a strong impact and results in a reduction of global activities of the organization.
  • A decreasing activity strategy would have a strong social impact.

Now, what do we do together tomorrow?

Despite the multiple reasons for being cautious before acting, we all know that the American way of life to which we are all accustomed will not last.  Nonetheless, since jazz and innovative musicians always need to tour and move around to create new ideas and opportunities, it will be necessary to establish a coordinated approach to reducing this carbon cost. In my opinion, it would be useful to set up an open convention which would define a precise carbon reduction strategy for its members. This convention could be a first step in developing an innovative approach for the European jazz sector which could be accepted round the sector and updated from time to time. Discussion of each point should be on the agenda now in order to avoid jazz and innovative music becoming a part of the carbon “burning society” and to help the music to stay in our collective mind as an important aesthetic force.


[1] Paris Agreement of COP21 signed in 2015 would lead to optimism about a big change of course about greenhouse gas emission…

[2] Criteria regularly updated by new scientific literature concerning the measurement of emissions.

[3] Little data exist on specific programs in the cultural sector, existing data are integrated into the industry portion of the overall distribution.

Some non-exhaustive studies realized on cultural sector:




[4] Cultural products known as positive externality in economical terms.

[5] In reality, according to the chosen accounting standard (GHG protocol, Carbon Balance... ISO), carbon emissions are based on a certain number of greenhouse gases. For example, the GHG protocol is based on the GHGs covered by Kyoto: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and three chlorofluorocarbon substitutes.

[6] More info on :

[7]  Example: CO2 has an index of GWP100 = 1 as reference. Other greenhouse gases have GWP100 values around GWP100 of CO2. Methane: GWP100= 34, Nitrous oxide (N2O), a GWP100=298

[8] many Carbon accounting standards exist in different countries. Now the ISO standard has been normalized by ISO 14064-2018. Most of the current known country standards ( GHG protocol or Bilan CarboneTM) are compatible with ISO.

[9] More info on :

[10] For sceptical people LCA of led lighning by the US energy agency: